OAKLAND -- Pitcher Michael Kirkman is back with the Rangers. More important, he is cancer-free. Kirkman missed almost three months while dealing with a recurrence of lymphoma, a condition he also had to deal with in the 2011-12 offseason.
Kirkman, who began the season in the Rangers bullpen, was 2-3 with a 6.98 ERA in five starts and one relief appearance at Triple-A Round Rock on a medical rehabilitation assignment. He allowed five runs in 4 1/3 innings in his last outing, but prior to that, he won two straight starts while allowing two runs in 11 innings.
"Overall, I'm doing pretty good," Kirkman said. "Baseball-wise, I'm improving. I had a bad game, but other than that I've pitched well. I learned some things about myself and I learned some things about pitching."
Kirkman still has to stay on top of his susceptibility to getting skin cancer, but it is gone for now.
"It's not something you want to go through, but it has to be dealt with," Kirkman said. "It's lymphoma. It happens. I have to get checked every three to six months with a certain type of scan, but other than that, if nothing shows up, I'm good to go."
After nearly two months, Berkman returns to action
OAKLAND -- Lance Berkman is back in the lineup for the Rangers as their designated hitter. He was batting eighth on Monday against the Athletics.
It's the first time he has played since going on the disabled list on July 7 with inflammation in his left hip. He also continues to deal with chronic soreness in his right knee.
"Ready or not, here we go," Berkman said. "I think I'm beyond the point of getting too hyped up. More than anything, just go out and compete and do the best I can."
Berkman played in four games on medical rehabilitation assignment but the last one was on Aug. 14. Since then he has been taking batting practice daily with the Rangers while waiting for September and the rosters to expand.
He was 4-for-11 with a home run in his Minor League time with Triple-A Round Rock and Double-A Frisco. He was hitting .254 with six home runs, 34 RBIs and a .377 slugging percentage in 68 games for the Rangers before going on the disabled list.
"I don't know how right I will be at first, but if I can have enough opportunities, I should be sufficient in my role," Berkman said.
Manager Ron Washington said he would like to use Berkman both Monday and Tuesday to see how he responds after his long layoff. Beyond that, Washington isn't sure how much Berkman will play.
"He's ready to go so I'm going to put him in there, let him see pitches and see how he does," Washington said. "He has a lot of experience. He's not going to be awed. He'll make it work. He's been around a long time. I'm not putting any expectations on him. I'll just watch and judge and leave it up to him. Whatever he gives us."
Stiff back sidelines Andrus another day
OAKLAND -- Shortstop Elvis Andrus was out of the lineup for a second straight day on Monday with stiffness in his lower back. Andrus remains day to day and Jurickson Profar started at shortstop for the 14th time this season.
"I feel better than two days ago, but there is still a lot of stiffness," Andrus said. "When I wake up, everything is tight. It's hard for me. I really want to play, but it's better to have somebody else healthy instead of me at 40 percent and get really hurt."
Andrus has been dealing with back stiffness off and on for most of the season. This is why the Rangers wanted to add Adam Rosales to the roster as an extra utility infielder for the stretch run. Manager Ron Washington is hoping Andrus will be ready on Tuesday.
"It's not bad," Washington said. "In a perfect world, he would have missed yesterday and played today. But we want to make sure. We can't afford for him to go down again."
Blackley slated to start vs. Angels on Saturday, for now
OAKLAND -- Manager Ron Washington said Travis Blackley is still scheduled to pitch on Saturday against the Angels. But it is tentative. Washington said pitching coach Mike Maddux is considering some other options for the rotation.
One option would be to push him back a few days. The Rangers are off on Thursday, so they could push Blackley back as far as next Tuesday against the Pirates while letting the other four starters pitch on their normal four days' rest.
Another option would be to use somebody else in the fifth spot. Right-hander Nick Tepesch and left-hander Michael Kirkman have been activated off the disabled list and are stretched out to start. Tepesch would most likely be the choice. He was 4-6 with a 4.85 ERA in 16 starts before going on the disabled list with inflammation in his right elbow. He threw four scoreless innings for Double-A Frisco on Friday, allowing four hits and a walk while striking out three.
Alexi Ogando is not an option. He remains sidelined with inflammation in his right shoulder. Ogando, who hasn't pitched since Aug. 13, threw a bullpen session on Monday and is expected to pitch live batting practice sometime this coming weekend in Anaheim. The Rangers will have a better idea where he stands after that.
Blackley is 1-1 with a 5.02 ERA in three starts for the Rangers since being acquired from the Astros on Aug. 14. He allowed three runs in a 4-2 loss to the Twins on Sunday. He started the game with four scoreless innings before the Twins scored three on him in the fifth. The Rangers failed to turn a double play behind him, which could have allowed him to get out of the inning without giving up a run.
"He did what he was supposed to do to keep us in the ballgame," Washington said.
As far as Blackley starting on Saturday, Washington said. "As of right now, he's the one. I reserve the right to change my mind."
• Leonys Martin recorded his 12th outfield assist on Sunday, second most in the American League. Alex Gordon of the Royals has 14. Those are the most assists by a Rangers outfielder since Ruben Sierra had 15 in 1991. The club record is 19 by Mickey Rivers in 1980.
• Manager Ron Washington on the AL West race: "I expect it to go down to the end. The Athletics are the division champs. I don't expect them to go away and I don't expect us to go away. Everything goes through Oakland. They are the division champs. It doesn't matter where they are in the standings."
• Adrian Beltre was the Rangers Player of the Month for August. It's the second straight month he has won the award and third time this season. He was also honored in May. Beltre hit .381 with five home runs, 20 runs and 21 RBIs in August. He has won the award six times in three years with the Rangers. He is the first Rangers player to win the award three times in one season since Alex Rodriguez won it five times in 2002.
• The Rangers are calling up pitcher Ross Wolf and outfielders Joey Butler and Engel Beltre from Triple-A Round Rock. They will join the Rangers on Tuesday. They are the final September callups and were added after Round Rock's season came to an end on Monday. The Rangers will have 35 players in uniform.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.